World's Richest Man - King Abdullah?

I don’t really understand the methodology that Forbes uses to determine the World’s Richest Man. Forbes recently came out with their revised list, which lists the richest man as Carlos Slim at $53.5 billion.

Separately, they, on occasion, do a list for the richest royals. Coming in at number 3 on that list is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at $21 billion.

Saudi Arabia is the owner of Saudi Aramco, which according to the Financial Times (subscription required) has a value of approximately $7 trillion. As the ruler of essentially a dictatorship, I can’t possibly see how King Abdullah would only be worth around 0.3% of the value of his country. I realize this is an extremely simply analysis, and that I am essentially equating the value of Saudi Arabia with Saudi Aramco; however, I just don’t understand how they can ascribe so little of the value of Aramco to Abdullah. Further, how does Forbes even come up with the net worth of $21 billion?

Being a dictator of a country doesn’t mean you have private ownership of everything within it.

Yep. Dictators still rule by the sufferance of the people, its just that there is a much, much higher threshold of naughtiness required to be ‘voted’ out. Trying to say you own everything and nobody else owns anything is a good way to kick off a ‘reelection’.

Its also a good way to seriously disrupt foreign investment in the country.

Bear in mind that rich people are only rich by the sufference of the governments controlling their assets. So it works both ways. After a certain point money stops being relevant, and it all becomes about power.

The current new is that it is a Mexican national who is heavily invested in the telecom industry.

Think "Carlos Slim"

Sure. I’m not saying it does. However, the Saudi government is essentially the Saud family. Abdullah is the head of the family.

How does Forbes even come up with a net worth of $21 billion for Abdullah? It seems to me that his net worth is really however much he can get away with before there is a coup or revolution.

To an extent, sure - if the King wanted to transfer additional assets from the state to his personal bank account, he could probably do so. However, at the moment he’s got a certain bank account (or maybe several) that consist of “his” money, and other accounts that contain the Kingdom’s funds. King Abdullah could become far more wealthy very quickly if he dipped into the till more - but that would harm his long-term prospects, so he doesn’t. And I assume Forbes is just counting the money he has “on hand”.

I assume Aramco is organized like a real company and has shares, pays dividends, etc. True, the king could probably call them up and suggest they forward him a consulting fee of $X million without question, and probably has some sort of standing arrangement to do so. But he does not actually “own” Saudi Arabia or any assets of it. He just gets to tell them what to do with their assets. It’s a fine distinction.

Really? I thought the world’s richest man was someone named Carlos Slim.

Plus, of course, Forbes doesn’t really know anyone’s wealth. It’s all estimates based on observation of visible assets, public information, etc. I’d guess - but don’t know - that the public information available about Abdullah’s wealth is less reliable than that available about, say, Bill Gates.

For some strange reason, I was convinced this sentence had the word “trafficker” in it, and it took me several seconds to assure myself that it didn’t.

Regarding rich monarchs, this made me think of a dilemma I ran into when I was contemplating writing a science fiction story. The premise was that someone developed a secret and exclusive means of reversing aging. Given that this was now the most valuable thing in the world, the controllers of the process maximized their revenue by offering it to the mega-rich for an extremely steep price: 90% of their entire worth. What I couldn’t figure out was how the price would be determined for dictators and hereditary monarchs, who couldn’t exactly share or liquidate the source of their wealth.

What’s up with that name anyway? How can the richest guy in the world be named Carlos Slim. Sounds like a pool shark. Or maybe the skinny cowboy that gets killed in the first scene.
Or a muscian who is confused about what genre of music he plays.

Actually, his name is Carlos Slim Helú, but he appears to like to be called Slim. He actually seems to be fairly chubby.

  1. Abdullah is a King not a Dictator.

  2. If he starts doing what is suggested and says “all mine”, well it will last as long as it takes for the senior Princes to explain to His Majesty why he is abdicating…with immediet effect.

Carlos’s second and third names come from Arabic. Slim < سَليم salīm ‘safe and sound’; Helú < حِلْو ḥilw ‘sweet’.

I asked this in the “Who would make a great Bond villain” thread and didn’t get a response, but I guess it is more appropriate here -

How many ‘unknown’ billionaires are there likely to be? Is it possible to make a billion and stay beneath the radar of all but the select few?

You’re thinking of his brother Barbados.